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Bicycles have become a very popular form of transportation and mode of exercise today. Proper care of a bicycle is a simple matter if you know the correct way to do the maintenance. But even changing a flat tire can become a tiresome task for the person who doesn't know where to begin. These tips and directions will help keep even the most avid biker informed about how to keep their bicycle running smoothly.
It is very important to keep your bike clean and lubricated. This should be done regularly if you ride a lot. Every two weeks you should lubricate the brake pivots, chain, freewheel, derailleurs and inner cables with a graphite spray lubricant. Dry lubricants such as this will not attract dirt like oils do. The application of a light, water resistant grease which can be purchased at most bike shops is also recommended. Apply to the bearings on the headset, bottom bracket, wheel hubs and pedals. For the best results, this should be done about once a year. Bicycle with caliper brakes should be checked to ensure the brake pads clear the wheel rim on each side when the hand levers are fully opened. If the levers or pads are out of adjustment after the adjustment screw is turned as far as possible, the cable is slack. You will need to loosen the anchor nut and have a helper hold the pads against the wheel while you pull the free lower end of the cable to take up the slack. The derailleur mechanism on bikes shift the drive chain from one gear to another. To prevent this mechanism from slipping out of adjustment you should never lay your bike on its right side, back pedal or shift only while pedaling. The rear derailleur will need adjusting if the chain slips off the freewheel cogs while you are riding or refuses to go onto the largest or smallest cogs.
When your bike has a flat tire you should never assume it has been cause by a puncture. If the leak is slow, first check the valve to be sure it is working properly. To do this you should turn the wheel in such a way that the valve is on top. Remove the cap from the valve and submerge the valve in water to see if bubbles form. If bubbles appear you will need to replace the valve core. It is best when replacing a valve core to use a valve cap that has valve removing prongs so that you can easily unscrew the old core. If you do not have this type of valve cap you can remove the valve core with needle nose pliers. When you have eliminated any valve leakage and you are still loosing air in a bike tire you should check the tire for cuts or holes. If you find one, mark it with chalk to make it easier to find where the puncture has entered the tube. Remove the wheel by following the wheel removal directions in the owner's manual and completely deflate it. If you do not have an owner's manual you can use a screw driver or spoon handle to remove the tire. Pry a small section of the tire from the rim and leaving the spoon handle in place, use a second spoon handle to run all the way around the rim. This will free the tire on one side.
Be sure when you are doing this that you leave the valve in place. Carefully work the rest of the inner tube out of the tire and inflate the tube. When the tube is completely inflated run your hand completely around it to find the area where there is an air flow. Then mark this spot with chalk and check the corresponding area on the tire for the cause of the puncture. This could be any sharp object such as thorns, nails or glass. When you find the cause, remove it from the tire. If for any reason you can't find a leak area you should remove the valve holding nut and push the valve stem out of the wheel rim. Partially fill the tube with air and then hold it slightly stretched in a bucket of water, bit by bit, until you see bubbles coming from the leak. Mark the puncture and deflate the tube. To patch the tube you will need a patch kit which can be purchased at any bike shop. Dry the area you marked that has the puncture and then sand it clean. Apply a light, even coat of adhesive to the cleaned area and allow to dry. When the adhesive is dry, peel the backing from a patch and press the sticky side of the patch to the adhesive. Using a spoon, press down firmly on the edges of the patch and allow to dry for five minutes. After five minutes push the tube back into the tire, carefully inserting the valve through the valve hole in the rim. You can then reseat the tire with your hands but be sure to check that both edges are inside the rim. If your bike has a valve holding nut, replace it and inflate the tire to its proper pressure. If you are unsure of the amount of pressure your tire should have, you can usually find it listed on the side of the tire. Ride the bike slowly on a level surface while checking the tire to be sure the pressure stays. It is always wise to check the entire tube for leaks while you have it out of the tire. Often if you have rode a bike through glass or any other item that can penetrate your tire, there could be more than one leak. A small and inexpensive tire tool kit that has everything you will need to fix your bike can be purchased at most bike stores. Some of them can even be fastened to different areas of your bike so that you always have tools when you need them. If you ride often it would be wise to purchase one of these tool kits.